There is some suggestion that attraction, attachment, and detachment have evolved as part of our primordial human mating system. A United Nation’s report suggests that marriage is central to many countries and approximately 93 percent of women and 92 percent of men marry by the time they are forty-nine years of age. Marriage is also an important aspect of tribal cultures where it is rare to find a person who has never married. The majority of relationships around the world are monogamous. Even though many countries permit polygymy only a small percent of the population practice polygymy. H. Fisher suggests that monogamy is a hallmark of human beings.
Although monogamy may be a hallmark of human beings, it does not exclude individuals from engaging in extramarital affairs. Approximately 56% of men and 34% of women have engaged in extramarital affairs. But monogamy still appears to be the general rule. However monogamy is not alway permanent. And many relationships end in divorce.
Few societies have ever prohibited divorce, except for the Roman Catholic church which banned divorce in the 11th century and the Incas never permitted divorce. Interesting research suggests that divorce correlates with economic autonomy. In countries where couples maintain economic independence, divorce rates are higher than in countries where couples are financially inter-dependant.
Divorce appears to occur most frequently around the fourth year of marriage. Divorce is common in couples who are in their twenties. And it is also common for people at the height of their reproductive and parenting years. Research indicates that couples are more likely to abandon a marriage if they have not produced any children or only have one dependent. Remarrying is also very common for divorcees who are still in their reproductive years. The more children a couple produce and the older they get, this increases the likelihood of staying together longer.
Why is divorce so common? Fisher suggests that we may all be preprogrammed to serial monogamy. The cycle of serial monogamy from Fisher’s perspective is the time required to raise a newborn child to infancy, being approximately four years. Fisher also suggests that the four year cycle is the required time for the brain physiology to go from attraction, attachment, and then detachment. Fisher goes further and suggests that serial monogamy may have genetic benefits. Humans who have children to multiple partners create a genetic vitality in their lineage. A man may choose a younger female partner who is more likely to produce healthier children. While women may have the opportunity to find a partner who offers greater economic and social security for children.
The outcome of this research may indicate that humans are driven to serial monogamy through the heightened period of fertility which occurs during our twenties. And as we enter our thirties and forties we are driven to create attachment and permanence in our relationships, and to search for security and longevity.
Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand.